Interactive Map: Foreign Aid

Country-by-Country Assistance for 2011

John Norris looks at U.S. foreign assistance spending for the past fiscal year and whether it was wisely appropriated.

This interactive map is an update to the tool the Center for American Progress introduced last year. Our goal is to help the reader gain a better understanding of where U.S. foreign assistance goes and how recipient countries rank on basic indicators such as political rights and civil liberties, corruption, and overall levels of development. The new map reflects country-by-country U.S. assistance spending for fiscal year 2011, as well as new country rankings from Freedom House, Transparency International, and the United Nations.

While no set of statistics can fully capture conditions on the ground, this data can help answer two intertwined questions: Is our foreign assistance being apportioned wisely and in places where it’s likely to be effective?

You can click on any country for a breakdown of assistance and the country’s ranking on key barometers from the aforementioned organizations. You can also screen the entire map for any of these indicators. We examine some key trends in the data below.


In looking at assistance in 2010 and 2011, it’s clear the United States is not particularly selective in how it spreads its aid. In 2010 151 countries received some form of foreign aid. That number barely dipped to 149 countries in 2011, with only Qatar and Tonga dropping off the list. Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq continue to consume a very large portion of the assistance budget, as do the longstanding aid packages to Israel and Egypt.

Some other numbers also pop out when looking at the general trends in assistance. More than one-quarter of the countries that received U.S. economic or security assistance were ranked as “not free” by Freedom House in 2011. (see sources section below for more information) Of the 60 countries identified as more corrupt in 2011 than in 2010 by Transparency International, 33 received less aid than in 2010, 24 actually received more aid, and three did not see any change in their assistance levels from Washington. In addition, we continue to see a surprisingly high number of countries in Eastern Europe and South America receiving U.S. assistance even though the United Nations ranks these countries as highly developed.

Development experts have learned the hard way that delivering assistance to corrupt and autocratic states usually doesn’t create much change. In contrast, partnering with countries committed to reform and investing in their own people is far more likely to produce lasting allies, good trading partners, and countries that no longer need U.S. assistance in the long haul. Better focusing aid dollars where they will be most effective is also eminently sensible given that the international affairs budget will be under mounting pressure as Congress and the administration slowly grapple with the deficit.


All figures reflect final appropriations numbers for fiscal year 2011 through the most recent continuing resolution. These figures will therefore be different than estimates found in the State Department’s 2011 Congressional Budget Justification. In addition, some humanitarian assistance and spending on food aid through the Department of Agriculture is not reflected here.

Freedom rankings come from Freedom House’s “Freedom in the World 2011,” the organization’s annual survey of global political rights and civil liberties. Freedom House ranked countries as free, partly free, or not free based on a survey of political rights and civil liberties.

Corruption indicators come from Transparency International’s “2011 Corruption Perceptions Index.” For the purpose of this map, countries were ranked as having high, medium, or low corruption based on which third of the corruption index they fell into.

Development rankings come from the UN Development Programme’s “2011 Human Development Index.” For the purpose of this map, countries were ranked as having high, medium, or low development based on which third of the development index they fell into.

Read more about sustainable security and foreign aid here.

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John Norris

Senior Fellow; Executive Director, Sustainable Security and Peacebuilding Initiative